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Thursday, December 12, 2013
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General Adoption Guidelines
There are several steps that are common to most types of adoption:
www.bethany.org(Bethany Christian Services)
www.cwa.org(Christian World Adoption)
www.childrenshopeint.org(Children’s Hope International)
www.heavensentchildren.org(Heaven Sent Children)
Agency Adoptions (permissible in many States and some foreign countries)
· through the local public agency
· through licensed private agencies (includes both domestic and intercountry programs)
· identified or designated adoptions where prospective adopting and prospective placing parents have located each other themselves (allowed in most States, and some agencies will assist with these placements)
· using attorneys or other intermediaries defined by State law
· using adoption facilitators (allowed in only a few States and some foreign countries)
· doing the work yourself (permitted for some international adoptions) with the aid of in-country assistance.
Since adoption laws in the State where you live govern your options, it is essential that you know what types of placements are allowed or not allowed by your State's laws. If you pursue an adoption across states lines, you must comply with the laws in both States before the child can join your family. States have enacted legislation that governs how children can be placed across State lines.
For international adoptions, your State laws, laws and regulations of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and U.S. State Deparment, and the laws of the specific country will apply.
In weighing your options, you should evaluate your ability to tolerate risk. Of the options outlined above:
· agency adoptions provide the greatest assurance of monitoring and oversight since agencies are required to adhere to licensing and procedural standards;
· independent adoptions by attorneys at least provide assurance that attorneys must adhere to the standards of the Bar Association and some attorneys who specialize in adoption are members of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, a professional membership organization with standards of ethical practice;
· adoptive placements by facilitators offer the least amount of supervision and oversight. This does not mean that there are not ethical professionals with good standards of practice; it simply means there are few or no oversight mechanisms in place at this time.
In addition to risk factors above, other considerations in selecting the type of adoption you pursue can include:
and others. As you read through the information for those seeking to adopt, keep in mind the many options available.
Domestic Public Agency Adoptions - Zero to $2,500
Most public agencies place only children with special needs, which is defined differently in each state. Up-front fees and expenses range from zero to $2,500, including travel and attorney's fees. Most states, under a federal match program, will reimburse non-recurring adoption expenses up to a set limit (which cannot exceed $2,000).
Federal and state adoption subsidies may be available for the ongoing care of children with special physical, mental, or emotional needs; the adoption subsidy agreement must be negotiated and signed before the child's adoption is finalized. However, there is a process whereby adoption subsidy can be applied for or renegotiated after finalization, but only under certain conditions.
In addition, some children qualify for SSI (Social Security Insurance) payments or Medicaid coverage because of their medical conditions.
After families have finalized the adoption of a child with special needs from the public child welfare system, they may be able to apply for reimbursement of expenses they paid related to the adoption, which may include home study fees, travel expenses to meet the child, attorney fees, etc. Each state sets a maximum cap which cannot exceed $2,000 per adoption.
For more information:
· Subsidized Adoptions from the North American Council on Adoptable Children
· call the NAIC hotline at 800/470-6665
for parents, social workers, administrators, and lawyers who have specific questions about Title IV-E Adoption Assistance.
Domestic Private Agency Adoptions - $4,000 to $30,000+
Licensed private agencies charge fees ranging from $4,000 to $30,000, which includes the costs for birth parent counseling, adoptive parent home study and preparation, child's birth expenses, post-placement supervision until the adoption is finalized, and a portion of agency costs for overhead and operating expenses. Some agencies have sliding fee scales based on the family income over the preceding one or more taxable years. Families who locate their own birth parent and find an agency which will provide designated or identified adoption services (such as birth parent counseling and home study and supervision services only) often find this option is less costly.
Domestic Independent Adoptions - $8,000 to $30,000+
Adoptive families who pursue independent adoptions report spending $8,000 to $30,000 and more depending on several factors. Independent adoptions are now allowed in most states, but advertising in newspapers, magazines, etc. seeking birth parents is not allowed in all states. Costs for advertising for birth parents can be in the $5,000 range. Adoptive parents may find that they pay birth parent expenses for birth parents who then change their mind and that money is not reimbursed. Some couples have had more than one arrangement with a birth parent fall through. Some states require that adoptive parents pay for separate legal representation for birth parents, in addition to their own legal representation. If the child has medical difficulties, birth expenses can be much higher.
Intercountry Private Agency or Independent Adoptions - $7,000 to $25,000+
Fees for intercountry adoption generally range from $7,000 to $25,000, including agency fees, dossier and immigration processing fees, and court costs. However, there may be additional costs for the following items which are usually not included in the fees:
· Child foster care (usually in South and Central American adoptions).
· Parents' travel and in-country stay to process the adoption abroad (length of stay or number of required trips varies).
· Escorting fees, charged when parents do not travel, but instead hire escorts to accompany the child on the flight to the parents' country.
· Child's medical care and treatment (occasionally in South and Central America).
Estimates for Specific Adoption Costs
1. Domestic Adoption Costs
The figures listed below are general ranges; differences may be found depending on:
· the type of adoption
· the area of the United States where the adoption occurs
· whether or not the agency charges a sliding-scale fee based on family income
· the country of origin of a foreign-born child the amount of State or Federal subsidy available for a child with special needs
· Federal or State tax credits available for reimbursement of adoption expenses
· employer adoption benefits
· State reimbursement for non-recurring expenses for the adoption of a child with special needs.
Domestic Adoption Costs
Intercountry Adoption Costs
Intercounty adoption costs vary according to the specific laws of the foreign country from which you are adopting. Costs can vary according to many factors, including:
· whether the placement entities in the foreign country are government agencies, government subsidized orphanages, charitable foundations, attorneys, facilitators, or any combination of these.
· whether the foreign country requires translation and/or authentication of the dossier documents
· whether the US agency requires a "donation" to the foreign orphanage or agency
· whether the foreign requires one or both adoptive parents to travel to the country for interviews and court hearings; could be more than one or more trips of varying length.
Intercountry Adoption Costs
US agency or attorney fees (for estimates, see Domestic Adoption Costs table above)
· USCIS (INS)/State Department visa application, processing and visa medical fees
· Homestudy and parent preparation
· Psychological evaluations (if required)
· Physical examinations
· Post-placement supervision (if required)
· Translation and authentication of adoption dossier documents (if required)
· Agency placement fee
Fees in the foreign country
· Travel expenses (transportation, hotel, meals)
· Foreign agency placement fee
· Foreign attorney legal and placement fee
· Foster and medical care for the child
· Use of translation and escort services by US agency representative in the foreign country
· Foreign court filing fee and document fees (birth certificate and adoption decree)
· Required "donation" to orphanage or agency
· Translation services and escort services
· Passport office fees
· A homestudy is required for all adoptions, except in some cases of kinship and stepparent adoptions where the requirement may be waived or simplified.
· A homestudy is valid for a period of one year from the date of approval. It must be renewed if the year passes and you have not adopted.
· A homestudy is prepared by those licensed for the purpose. Homestudy preparers may be licensed differently for public, private, and international adoptions.
· Pre-adoption education is an important part of the homestudy process. It is a requirement prior to homestudy approval for public adoptions (from foster care), and more and more private agencies are developing education requirements for other types of adoption.
If you're reading about homestudies, then congratulations are in order -- you've gotten this far in the adoption process!
So, you're taking in all there is to read and chatting it up with other prospective and experienced parents about what to expect next. You're not the first person to feel anxious about the scrutiny of a homestudy.
We spoke with Gerald A. Bowman, LCSW, ACSW and some parents currently going through it about the homestudy process and how to make it not only bearable, but beneficial.
Why are we subjected to homestudies?
The first step is to understand just what the homestudy is used for and how it's used. You can find many details starting at our resource list.
Contrary to what it may seem, a homestudy is essentially like a job interview -- an opportunity for two-way inspection. The agency wants to assess you and you want to learn more about the adoption process.
There's another, often unspoken, purpose for the homestudy. It may be used to present your family as a candidate to the child's representatives or biological parents.
What's Going to Happen?
There are some generic specifics that apply in most agencies' requirements, such as:
· A minimum number of visits, usually three;
· A requirement that some of the visits be in your home;
· Individual discussions with each member in the household;
· Preparation of a family financial history;
· Initiation of a criminal background check;
· Documentation of physical health history and current status;
· Request for references.
The following topics should usually be discussed:
· Each parent's family of origin;
· Parenting practices and beliefs;
· Marital and other relationships;
· Infertility issues, if applicable;
· Types of children you are considering.
The length of the homestudy process can vary widely, depending on the type of adoption, the rules, regulations, agency staff, and everyone's availability. According to therapist Gerald Bowman, once the visits have been completed, the process could theoretically be slowed by things like the preparer's previous workload, additional administrative tasks (such as translation or waiting for verification by a consulate), or requirements that all studies pass through a review board.
In Lori's situation, the whole process took less than two weeks from initiation to finish, with only one actual meeting with the worker. This is because, as Lori explains, "We did a 'designated adoption,' which means we had already located a birthmother and just used the agency to facilitate the adoption."
In a case of international adoption, Anna received a draft of the study five weeks after initially meeting her worker, and all related clearances took an additional two weeks.
Mary Kay reports that going through her county's foster care system is taking several months in total. The couple was called to schedule the preparer's visits some two months after they finished seven weeks of prerequisite classes.
What Is A Good Homestudy?
Bowman, a board member of the National Association of Ethical Adoption Professionals, says at its most basic level, a homestudy should be accurate, clear, concise, and readable.
It should answer the fundamental questions: who are the people who wish to adopt, why do they wish to adopt, how have they prepared for adoption, and are they able to support a child, physically, mentally, and financially?
The answers will come from an exploration through discussion about the prospective parents' past lives, employment, and future plans.
Any concerns that arise, for example either parent having an abusive childhood or any past arrests, should be addressed in the homestudy phase.
The home study is really a process, as well as a document. It is not a pass/fail test; rather it's a chance for the couple or single to ask questions of the provider and use this experience.
Every possible question that may be asked by any of the involved entities, including Immigration/Naturalization Service and foreign or domestic courts, should be addressed in the homestudy.
Regarding the length of the homestudy document itself, Bowman says that most agencies do not have a minimum or maximum length requirement, but they provide homestudy preparers with a standardized form to assure that all requested information is covered.
How To Survive The Scrutiny
If at all possible, lighten up! The truth of the matter is that workers and agencies are far more interested in approving you than not. They have children to place in good homes, and they want yours to be one.
Even tenuous circumstances, like previous arrest records or other "scathing" personal history, aren't grounds for automatic disapproval in most cases, says expert Bowman. So find ways to make the visits more relaxing for you, and things will work out fine.
In Mary Kay's situation, things got off to a rolling start as the couple golf carted their assigned worker through their hundred acre farm. It took half a day, but as the mom-to-be says about her worker, "She's very down to earth."
Anna was lucky enough to get some tips from a friend who had used the same worker. Also, even though she later learned that a parent in her older child's school performs homestudies, Anna says, "In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't use her -- I like having someone not so close to home to expose all the dirty laundry to!"
Knowing as much as you can about the process in advance can help you breeze through your homestudy. Lori says, "The whole process was rather overwhelming, especially happening as quickly as it did, but we didn't encounter anything surprising in the process, so I guess we had been pretty well informed."
Many families going through homestudy find that, in the end, the process gives them an opportunity to learn more about each other -- not just about "dirty laundry," but about expectations, hopes, and dreams -- the stuff that parenting is made of...